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Motivation and Appreciation - A Researcher's Guide to Respondents

"You have been invited to participate in an upcoming market research project," the invitation reads. A simple statement that can conjure up any number of different expectations, which can often be difficult for researchers to address. After considering objectives, scope, and sample, the question that is sometimes left out of market research planning is: What do the respondents expect?

Survey respondents are motivated by different things. Gift rewards and cash compensation are the most common incentives offered by panel companies, but there are intangible motivators as well. The voice of the consumer is a powerful feedback channel that creates an immense sense of personal value when opinions are solicited, and more importantly, appreciated.

Foster an atmosphere of appreciation is the responsibility of the researcher, and while it's not possible to please everyone, there are a few fundamental steps to demonstrate that the opinions being shared are valued, while at the same time promoting engagement with the research process:

Targeted Data

The logical approach to an engaging questionnaire begins with personalisation. Just because there is an ocean of data available doesn’t mean researchers need to start filling up buckets. Targeted, relevant data isn’t just an ideal outcome anymore. It’s the practical result of asking the right questions to the right people.

Lean surveys extend the usability of collected information by building a profile of the respondent as they make entries. Blanket statements and repetitive or irrelevant questions can make a questionnaire feel impersonal, bringing into question the sincerity of the entire process.

Attrition by Rejection

Respondents who are continually screened out of surveys eventually lose the will to keep trying. This silent form of drop-out is less noticeable than those who quit halfway through a survey, but in the long term it can seriously affect the diversity and overall validity of the research sample. By monitoring screen outs and catching these people before they fall through the cracks, researchers can work to prevent any hard feelings when saying 'No Thanks'.

Make it a Challenge

Gamification has become a major trend in the world of consumer engagement, incorporating elements of game design such as leaderboards, points systems, and achievement badges, into traditionally non-game contexts. For the same reason that digital gaming is one of the fastest consumer entertainment sectors, adding gamification elements to market research has been shown to increase respondent engagement.

Some tried and tested methods of this include doing away with long instruction text, instead opting for a 'tutorial level' where respondents learn by doing. Here they can answer introductory questions, and ease into the rest of the study while receiving helpful hints along the way. Progress indicators, feedback messages, and response/entry goals can also be used to turn a mandatory task into a fun, engaging challenge for respondents.

The proof (Prize) is in the Pudding

Panel providers typically enjoy a higher response rate thanks to a carefully curated and incentivised community, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to achieve a high response rate on your own. Aside from the points and gift card system, the results themselves can be the reward. Follow up with your respondents about the outcome of the research to allow them to compare their thoughts with the community at large, and to see the impact of their participation. This not only satisfies the schoolhouse curiosity about what someone else put down for that tricky open-ended question, but also shows how those shared opinions are being used to exact real life change.

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